So I went to a con. Anyone who knows me realizes that I never do things simply. ‘Going to a con’ usually means crafting an elaborate set of circumstances to make the event bigger than it has to be. Participating in Adepticon involves a miniature painting contest or two as well as a two day tournament. Going to Nerdtacular, I came up with a way to hang out with my friends that kept me at a safe distance from strangers (we had a shop there, it was awesome). Going to CanCon was no different. The only person I’d know there was Dave Nelson of Galactic Netcast and he wasn’t going to be there to hold my hand the whole weekend. I had to give myself a reason to not cancel at the last minute.
So I asked to be on a panel there and surprisingly, they made it happen.
Let’s take a step back. What the hell is CanCon?
CanCon is the ‘Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature’. It’s a con on scifi and fantasy books. It’s also pretty damn rad if you’re curious about the industry from a Canadian perspective or in general.
The event itself is tiny if I compare it to most of the cons I’ve been to. I don’t know what the attendance is (or how old the event is, or several other things I wanted to ask Derek Künsken but didn’t have the time or wherewithal) but it’s in a range that I would call semi-intimate. People knew each other. Panel rooms were small. It’s the kind of community event that manages to be both welcoming yet insular. It’s also rich in information about publishing, small presses, speculative fiction, and everything you’d want to learn if you’re either a fan of scifi and fantasy or wanting to write in those genres.
This event is truly a situation of quality over quantity. I won’t claim that I was happy with all the panels I attended but I walked away from the con as a whole with significantly more information than I had expected. I attended two panels that discussed science in speculative fiction (asteroids and bioengineering) and both were staffed with authorities on each subject. I also enjoyed panels on book reviews and traditional publishing that were extremely insightful. Unfortunately, I missed the panel on artificial intelligence because I arrived late on Friday.
My own panel was on crowdfunded publishing which I half-expected would end up with me vomiting everything I know about Inkshares and my experiences there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the con staff had managed to pull together a varied list of panelists. Ira Nayman turned out to be a fellow Inkshares participant. A veteran of the Nerdist contest who came with his own perspective on running a campaign there. Hayden Trentholm of Bundoran Press brought his experience crowdfunding from the publisher’s point of view. Caroline Frechette who has run a successful Kickstarter campaign moderated the panel, leaving me to talk a little about Inkshares and learn a lot from my fellow panelists.
Because I'm a goddamn maniac and clearly a masochist, I signed up for as many pitch sessions as I could. Which was three. My impression of these... things, was that they'd be a mix of speed dating and interviews. So essentially a little bit of bottled Hell. The sessions ranged from 5 to 12 minutes which really isn't much time to talk about what every author considers their deep and complex piece of literature. I went in fully expecting exactly three rejections and I was super okay with that. This was about learning. Maybe this year they don't pick up anything because I'm bumbling through these sessions like an awkward teenager on prom night, but next year I'll be able to go in with a more serious and prepared approach. 'Bring condoms this time' if we're going to keep with the analogy.
I wasn't far off the mark. These do feel like rushed affairs but they kind of have to be. A lot of people want their books looked at and a publisher only has so much time to give. This is a good, fast way to get to see a lot of different books and decide which are worth a second look. Everyone at these sessions was super pleasant, so as far as speed dating goes, these were lovely ladies (sorry Robert). The interview part wasn't too painful either, but I usually rock at interviews. Talk about myself? Don't mind if I do! I learned what a pitch session was and walked away with two requests for full manuscripts. I'll go ahead and call that one a win.
This could have been more fun, if I let it
I was disappointed at my own lack of initiative interacting with people. There were parties. With food. And people. People that it behooves me to get to know better if I want to make a go a this ‘author’ thing. There was also food.
I’m definitely going again next year. I don't know where I'll be with my various writing projects but I'd love to have a book launch there and be on more panels. I’m also making a point of dragging some of my Montreal writing buddies. There is no question that they would both enjoy this event and learn a lot from it. Also, I need a posse to hang out with. Drinking alone isn’t as cool Hemingway’s biographies make it out to be.
I actually enjoy driving long distances. Whether alone or in a group, road tripping is kinda cool if I have enough podcasts to make it fun. Ottawa, where CanCon is held, isn't that far from Montreal, 2 hours, but it's enough to be different and fun. You know what's not fun? The break line on your car severing as you leave the parking of the hotel.
This added an extra day in Ottawa for me, along with over a grand in costs to the trip. It's hard not to let that taint my impressions of my weekend but there it is. Feeling sorry for me? You should. It's terrible. Help me feel better by pre-ordering The Life Engineered.